Some random thoughts and musings about this week's slate, things to look for, trends to follow along with, easy and breezy. Share them, dip them, offer your own. Talking football, it sure beats raking.
Houston at Cleveland: I'm all for Andre Johnson, really I am, but he's scored just once in his last five games and he doesn't have a 30-yard reception since Week 6. That's why he's just eighth on my receiver board this week. Of course, sure, I'll dial him up at Cleveland. The total is around 50 in this game, so we should see some points. Houston's secondary has allowed multiple TDs in six different games, and there's nothing overly impressive about the quarterbacks it stopped (Kerry Collins before he got rolling, David Garrard, Dan Orlovsky, Ryan Fitzpatrick). Obviously this is a good spot for Brady Quinn, if you need a second QB or a reach as your first play.
Buffalo at Kansas City: You want to roll with Lee Evans here, but it's so hard to trust Trent Edwards. Marshawn Lynch is the big winner because Edwards is going to keep checking it down. A shocker to me, there's still room on the Tyler Thigpen bandwagon. Not everyone has bought in yet. He's played well in four straight games, his team is constantly behind, he'll sneak in 20-40 rushing yards a week, his receivers can play, tell me what's not to like here? If this game isn't on at the sports bar I visit on Sunday, I'm going somewhere else.
New England at Miami: Okay, everyone remembers how the Dolphins punk'd the Pats two months ago and spawned the Wildcat craze. Now here's Bill Belichick, in a revenge game, with extra time to prepare. Connect the dots, this has "Patriots roll" written all over it. (If you see my little brother Chip in the crowd, buy him a beer. Or many beers.) Somehow, Wes Welker got underrated again. He's the most valuable player on this New England offense.
New York at Tennessee: I know the Titans always win and pretty much always cover (9-0-1 or 9-1, depending on your source), but I'm liking the Jets with the five. The key is keeping Brett Favre reigned in, like he was for the New England game. Thomas Jones is getting better blocking this year, sure, but he looks quicker too, for some reason. The New York coaches are finally realizing that Leon Washington needs some touches every week (it's always funny when the team is the last to figure out who can play and who can't; last year the Jets buried Washington, wouldn't start David Harris initially, and thought Kellen Clemens was the answer). Kerry Collins is getting it done against teams daring the Titans to pass, but I want to see how he looks if Tennessee ever faces a multiple-score deficit against a legit defense (no, Jacksonville doesn't count). And once and for all, Collins is a nice little story, sure, but he's not an MVP candidate, not even close. Heck, the most valuable guy in Tennessee is Albert Haynesworth.
Philadelphia at Baltimore: I'm done piling on the Eagles for this week, you know how I feel (kudos to the Philly fans, who for the most part were level-headed and smart as they dissected the situation with us this week). I would use Correll Buckhalter a little bit, though. Remember when Mark Clayton was a big deal? He's got a measly 21 catches, and he gets just 2.2 yards after the grab.
San Francisco at Dallas: I was a little surprised to see everyone jump back on Tony Romo's back for fantasy purposes this week. Did he look sharp to you on Sunday night? Doesn't this look like a game where Marion Barber steers the ship and knocks out the Niners in the fourth quarter? Enjoy Barber while you can, because after San Francisco and Seattle, he faces the schedule from hell (Steelers, Giants, Ravens, Eagles).
Tampa Bay at Detroit: Jeff Garcia has gotten a little unlucky on passing plays that die just outside the goal line, but still, he's yet to post a two-touchdown game. You can get excited about him here, but I'm more excited about what Warrick Dunn might do against the reactive, over-pursuing Detroit linebackers. Antonio Bryant is on his own frequency, but the dude can play when the mood strikes him, no doubt on that. Give Calvin Johnson props for making it work no matter who the quarterback is. He's scored in five of six starts, and he posted 92 yards in the other game. He does lead the NFC in dropped passes, however. Kevin Smith has impressed me with his toughness and ability to move the pile, but good luck against the Bucs, Titans and Vikings the next three weeks.
Minnesota at Jacksonville: At least the Jags have finally pushed Maurice Jones-Drew's touch count to where it needs to be; someone deserved to be fired over how the offense ran things for the first month. Unfortunately, their season is already out the window. Quick, how many touchdown passes have the Vikings allowed? Probably not as many as you think. Do you know anyone that likes Brad Childress as a head coach? I'm just asking for one supporter here.
Chicago at St. Louis: Okay, Kyle Orton, show us you're back. Please abuse this secondary just begging to be abused. If Shaun Hill can do it, so can you. Just a hunch but I have a feeling Devin Hester does something here. I ranked Antonio Pittman suspiciously high this week, but fortunately got away with not having to explain it. I guess I see it as a volume play. The loss of Orlando Pace obviously hurts. Marc Bulger is easy to sack, while the Chicago pass rush is missing in action. Something's gotta give.
Oakland at Denver: JaMarcus Russell actually looked okay last week, if you wanted to know (it's also worth noting that Miami had trouble beating two weak teams at home, Seattle and Oakland). Zach Miller would be an every-week fantasy play on a different team. Peyton Hillis's emergence reminds me a lot of that Nick Goings run at the end of 2004; a fullback getting it done running straight ahead, no lateral movement whatsoever. Mike Shanahan loves to take down his former employer, and he's pretty successful at it (21-6).
Carolina at Atlanta: You watch Jake Delhomme snap-by-snap and you have to wonder if he's hiding an injury here. It's one thing to throw some wayward passes now and then, but he's all over the place. The Panthers have outscored their opponents by a mere 67 points, which is another way of saying they're a flimsy 8-2. They still have four road games to play, however, so there's time for a correction. I'm definitely calling for a Falcons win here.
New York at Arizona: If this game were in the Meadowlands, I'd call for a Giants runaway, but indoors and on the fast tract, the Warner Aerial Circus has an excellent chance to win. It will be interesting to see if Brandon Jacobs is willing to take a mild discount to stay in New York, working in a perfect environment for him. He'll always need good depth behind him for two reasons: he's an injury risk given all the contact he takes on, and he's absolutely lost as a pass receiver. Man, it's fun watching him steamroll people, though.
Washington at Seattle: It's frustrating to watch the Redskins throw so many short passes, but they're having protection issues when they try to go deep. It's another touch-and-go week for Clinton Portis, who was called a game-time decision by Jim Zorn on Friday. Antwaan Randle El shouldn't be starting on a playoff-contending team. The Seahawks have stayed competitive of late and Matt Hasselbeck should be sharper in the second game back, so I'm calling for a game that's in the balance for all four quarters.
Indianapolis at San Diego: It's an outside shot, but Peyton Manning might get back into the MVP race if he finishes strong and something happens to Kurt Warner. He's had five brilliant starts out of seven since the bye, and his two weaker performances came against strong competition (at Green Bay, at Tennessee). Philip Rivers is almost unbeatable at home during his career (18-2 regular season), but he won't get anything easy against a secondary that's allowed two touchdown passes all year. Ten-second trivia: What receiver in this game has seven dropped passes, fifth in the league? Your answer, here.
Green Bay at New Orleans: There's a three-way logjam at the top of the NFC Central standings, but I'm fully expecting the Packers to assert themselves and run away with the division. The run defense needs to be tightened up, but I like everything else here: Ryan Grant has come around nicely, Aaron Rodgers is very good now and improving every week, and the Packers have two star corners that aren't afraid to press on the flanks. As much as I like Drew Brees and Sean Payton, I worry about the imbalance of the offense, and I haven't trusted the Saints defense for years. Here's another upset for the pool sheet.
- Kerry Collins